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A communications scheme in which terminals (PCs, etc.) exchange data by connecting directly with each other over a network. Can also refer to software or hardware employing such a scheme. The abbreviation, P2P, is commonly used. A contrasting scheme is client-server communication, in which clients access a server to receive data.
A feature of P2P schemes is that the load is not concentrated at a single terminal, making them resistant to communications failure, so they have become widely used for applications like IP telephony and video distribution. On the other hand, incidents of abuse, such as illegal uploading and downloading using file-sharing software, are increasing and have become a societal issue.